Dynafit is re-thinking and refining the alpine touring boot in the 2018-2019 season with the Hoji. This boot is the result of pro free-skier Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson and inventor of the tech binding Fritz Barthel working to design a boot that tours and skis exceptionally well and transitions with the movement of one lever.
The Hoji will be available in the PX and Pro Tour models with the difference being material, weight, and price. The PX option is made of Pebax while the Pro Tour is cast from lighter Grilamid. The Grilamid construction saves about 100g over Pebax and comes in at $800. As a backcountry shop, we like the Pro Tour for the weight savings and will have this version on our wall next season.
The most notable feature of the Dynafit Hoji is the inner working in walk mode. Large internal bumpers sit inside the cuff of the boot that catch the lower portion like a pair of lobster claws while in ski mode. Lifting the ski/walk lever to walk mode raises the internal structure so that the bumpers clear the lower frame and provide 55 degrees of motion. Dynafit used a complex system of bumpers on their Beast and Khion boots, but not integrating the bumpers into the walk mode created the feeling of hitting a wall at the front of the boot’s range of motion. Now the support is there for skiing but gets out of the way on the climb.
Like the Dynafit Beast boot, the Hoji gets pre-loaded against the bumpers by an extension out of the bottom of the walk mode. Pre-load takes any play out of the boot and creates an exceptionally responsive and reliable feel. The external arm sits on top of a pin on the heel of the Hoji, but does not capture it completely. Leaving the walk mode more open makes the flex more natural without the sensation of hitting a wall when the walk mode catches.
“Pants down always,” and “One move to switch” have been the catch phrases surrounding the Dynafit Hoji. This is a common concept in randonee race boots, and some successful attempts have been made at combining the cuff buckle and walk mode. Dynafit has even combined the cuff buckle, instep buckle, and walk mode into a single mechanism on the TLT7, but this has always required lifting your pant leg to access the cuff and power strap. The Hoji design routes steel cables from the internal walk mode mechanism to the cuff buckle and power strap so that both are loosened when the boot is switched to walk.
Dynafit put a lot of thought into these cables and has gone to some length to prevent damage and make them user replaceable. Lou Dawson, in his article on Wild Snow, notes that the ends of the cables sit inside the walk mode and are free to spin to prevent the cable from unraveling due to twisting. There is also extra room behind the cable ends to prevent the cables from kinking if they are pressed back into the boot. The boot is easy to get in and out of, but the integrated buckle and power strap mean that a certain order is required:
- Loosen buckles and open boot
- Put the boot on
- Switch to ski mode
- Close buckles and tighten the power strap to your desired downhill settings
- Pull the cuff of your pants down over the boot and leave it there for the rest of the day.
- Lift the walk mode to start touring
When the cuff is open using the walk mode the buckle and power strap will remain in the same setting, and when the mechanism is in ski mode they will return to the exact same tension. The cuff and instep buckles are a beefier version of the magnesium buckles from the Beast, but an extra piece locks the buckle down so it will remain in place when it is not under tension. The strap over the ankle is a nice touch. It pulls the foot back into the heel pocket for more control and can be adjusted to prevent heel slip on the ascent. It feels like it has just a bit of stretch which adds to the boot’s progressive flex.
The speed nose is an obvious feature on the Hoji that is making its way into Dynafit’s boot line. Removing the toe welt has a couple benefits. First, less material saves weight, and second, the speed nose brings the tech fittings in closer to the toe of the foot for an improved stride. Shifting the tech fittings back doesn’t look like much, but after skinning a few thousand miles on boots with toe welts the difference is noticeable. It’s a subtle feeling of being more in tune with your skis location and feeling the ski more under foot rather than swinging out in front.
The speed nose is new, and there will always be those that are resistant to change, but the drawbacks are minimal. Because Dynafit boot soles are not stamped with a norm they are only compatible with tech bindings even with a toe welt. Dynafit addresses the crampon compatibility issue with a proprietary “cramp-in” system. This will use a small insert on the sole of the boot under the toe that will be compatible with the new lightest crampon on the market. Similar to other ski race crampons using a dyneema crossbar, this crampon will use steel cables as the crossbar joining the toe and heel pieces, and a standard heel throw will lock the crampon into place. If you don’t want to buy into a boot-specific crampon system, then we like the Petzl Irvus Hybrid crampon with the Hoji, TLT7, PDG and any other weltless ski boots that Dynafit may produce. It’s light, compact, and can be setup as semi or fully automatic. The steel toe piece and aluminum heel is also a nice combination of weight savings and durability.
Skiing the Hoji Pro Tour is a pleasure. It’s comfortable and warm with more than enough range and ease of motion for touring. Dynafit’s innovative ski/walk mechanism makes the boot very predictable and enables it to drive a ski through any condition. The one move to switch into walk mode is a game changer at transitions, and it really does save time. I recommend buying your partner a pair as well or investing in a nice thermos and bringing your coffee with you so you have something to do while you wait at the top of every lap.
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